With less than three months to go before its announced March release date, the upcoming game has already kicked the year off with a bang—though likely not the way its creators at Square Enix intended.
Hours before the end of 2019, the game’s playable teaser demo leaked before it had even been announced as a freebie for fans. (Most of its 45 minutes of content can still be found at YouTube as of press time, though we’ve grabbed screens of its 720p footage just in case.)
Once Square Enix gets down to takedown business, however, there’s also the matter of what else came packed into the leaked demo’s file set: a ridiculous amount of uncleaned code from the rest of the upcoming retail release, including hours of music and apparent spoilers.
And you thought was news…
The story began on Christmas Day with a hint of this very demo. Gamstat, a public depository for updates to the PlayStation Network’s newest products, posted an official image for both this demo and another unannounced game: a remastered version of the portable PSP classic game . This one-two punch of classic-gaming fan service could have ended there, but days later, the files found their way to impatient users.
Scattered reports suggest that those users simply employed a spoofed IP address to access the demo ahead of its public launch and were even able to download the resulting files on average Windows PCs. Such a method suggests that Sony may not have a credentialed system in place to protect pre-release files on its PlayStation Network system, though users still needed to use either a “debug” developer PS4 or a modded one to play the game.
The demo ends with users being invited to pre-order the game’s PS4 version via PlayStation Network, which suggests that this demo was meant for public consumption.
The resulting demo runs a bit longer than what we both saw and played at E3 2019, and it includes a few new cinematic sequences that previously hadn’t been revealed—in particular, footage of the classic game’s villains at Shinra Corp watching and commenting on the actions of familiar heroes Cloud, Barret, and Wedge. Mechanically, not much has changed compared to what I described from this past summer; the action still looks like a refined action-RPG system that builds upon the good ideas from 2017’s , and its real-time rendering of classic characters looks fantastic within Unreal Engine 4.
Once the demo’s earliest downloaders exported its files to PCs, however, and picked them apart with readily available tools, they found that its 10GB package was stuffed with content that’s otherwise impossible to find in the course of the demo.
Spoilers from here on out—you’ve been warned
I’ll go in order from mildest to wildest, in terms of hidden demo content that could be considered a spoiler.
A whopping four hours of music was unearthed from the package, though that raw runtime is a bit inflated with some repeating music. Half of the audio is dedicated to the soundtrack from the game’s first “chapter,” while the other half is tagged with “jukebox” and contains a mix of new and previously released remixes and rearrangements of classic songs. Previous Final Fantasy games have come with bonus songs that can be played in the game’s cars and bars, and this dump of audio suggests the same could be coming to FFVIIR.
Because the game is rendered in Unreal Engine 4, some of the included .PKG files are already being loaded and run on PC UE4 instances. Some users are already pulling out individual character files and renders so that they can animate familiar characters like Cloud (and we’re sure that will get weird before long). Other users managed to get a folder titled “MINIGAMES” running, with one resulting demo showing off a rhythm-based button-tap game that sees Cloud “dancing” to dodge enemy attacks.
If you want to estimate the length of the game, you might be able to do so based on an attached “chapters” list, which currently contains 18 entries. (The game’s first chapter, which appears to comprise the entirety of the demo, runs about 45 minutes.) This list is part of a larger dump of text that includes dialogue hints from the larger game, tutorial text, and even explanations of how certain familiar characters fit into this “remake” project.
This text, by the way, includes mentions of various pixel resolutions and frame rates, along with references to AMD and Nvidia hardware. Whether this is confirmation that Square Enix is planning a PC port of is unclear, however, since such text could be a holdover from pre-release Unreal Engine 4 tests.
The most tantalizing content comes from a series of storyboards and renders, some more complete than others. Some look like near-final versions of how the classic game’s cast has been reimagined to run on PlayStation 4 consoles. Others appear to be flat-out reveals of how certain characters do (or don’t) appear in different places than we saw them in the original game, which thus hint to some plot crossover tying the threads of other -related media (particularly the 2007 PSP game ). And if you’re wondering: Yes, according to these images, Cloud will once again dress as, and pretend to be, a woman to trick the crime baron Don Corneo.
This slew of images deserves the most grains of salt in part because many come from unoptimized, incomplete renders with a severe lack of proper lighting, textures, and shaders. There’s also the possibility that any of the images or text hints in the current leaked demo have since been updated or jettisoned due to the nature of video game development.
Though Square Enix has not formally commented on the leak as of press time, Square Enix scenario writer Kazushige Nojima used Twitter on Thursday to offer a sad, vague statement about “leaks.”